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Vote Expected On Senate Version Of State Budget

Republican Senators have made dozens of changes to the budget they unveiled last week, with a final vote by the full Senate likely Wednesday.

Senators eliminated language that would have banned using state money on any projects that require specific agreements negotiated with unions – that ban had angered Democrats. But state agencies would have to hold public hearings when so-called Project Labor Agreements are involved. 

Senators also brought back the $60 million dollar a year Historic Preservation Tax Credit, and increased per-pupil funding for school vouchers. They’re are requiring the prisons department to study converting a prison into a facility for inmates with substance abuse issues. And there’s a 50 cent cap on the tax on so-called premium cigars. 

Democrats, who offered up 500 amendments before the initial budget proposal, could propose a few dozen amendments before it’s voted on in the Finance Committee.

Though an increase in the state’s 20 cent per barrel tax on oil and natural gas drillers will not be a part of the budget.

The so-called severance or fracking tax increase proposed by Gov. John Kasich wasn’t in either the House or Senate budgets. And Senate President Keith Faber says the idea won’t come back at least until a newly created bipartisan task force of lawmakers delivers a report on it by October 1.

Faber said the task force will finally bring lawmakers, the Kasich administration and the industry all into the same talks.

"Putting everybody in the same room together, I think, will lead to fruitful negotiations,” said Faber. "All of us have now spent enough time on this issue to have at least knowledge as to where to go.”

Both the Ohio Oil and Gas Association and the American Petroleum Institute issued statements praising lawmakers for taking the tax hike on oil and gas drillers out of the budget and for creating this task force to talk about it, but they also made it clear that the industry remains opposed to the idea.